Resources for Family Caregivers of Older Adults
Solving the Annual Holiday Dilemma: Choosing Gifts for Senior Loved Ones

Solving the Annual Holiday Dilemma: Choosing Gifts for Senior Loved Ones

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When we are young, time just seems to drag on so slowly as the holiday season nears. It just feels like it will never arrive.

When we’re adults, sometimes it feels like the calendar is on hyperdrive, the holiday season is upon us so fast.

No matter our time perspective, it’s not too early to start planning the gifts we will get our senior loved ones for the holiday — and start making purchases.

You may decide you need a little time to get some of these ideas ready for the big day, so let’s get going…!

Some of you are groaning, I can hear you. Getting gifts for our senior loved ones is not the easiest thing to do. We all want to get just the right thing that they will love and use all the time.

It feels like we have the same challenge year after year — we don’t want our gifts to be dust collectors, leaving our senior feeling guilty that we spent so much money on something they don’t use.

We have some ideas for you to begin thinking about and start acting on before it’s too late! Most of these ideas will give you opportunities to do things together as a family, get your senior moving and stimulate their brain to keep them mentally sharp.

They might not be asking for these things and won’t really know that they want it when they get it but will thank you later for being so thoughtful, especially if you help them put your gift to use.

These won’t be as easy as getting some socks and putting them in a gift bag, but will be rewarding for everyone!

Fun, Games & Family Time Together

One valued gift is that which can be used by the family all together, creating moments and memories that you can all share. Some of these ideas will help the grandkids (or even great-grandkids) interact with the older loved ones in the family.

  • You might try a gift basket of games and goodies that had some good old time play for everyone. You can buy one ready-made or design your own using what you think would be most appealing to everyone. Include things that you all can do together such as board games like checkers, puzzles, brain teasers, Mad Libs (remember those?), card games, candy, popcorn and other family friendly treats.
  • Get a family picnic basket, foldout picnic table, blanket for impromptu picnics. You can go on picnics and jaunts together all year long with activities such as nature walks, bird watching, feeding the ducks at the pond, sports events, concerts in the park and family togetherness events.
  • Try one of more of a collection of family games for your video gaming system that will allow multigenerational play to stay engaged, stimulated and active; oh yeah-and is super fun! Some great games that everyone will love are bowling, Family Feud, Family Game Night, or Wheel of Fortune.
  • Get some outdoor fun and game items such as a badminton set, croquet, bean bag toss, Frisbee Golf set, horseshoes, giant bowling game, or any other family favorites you have that get everyone involved.

Technology Gifts

There are more and more new innovations in technology that can provide real value in terms of aging in place when used to their maximum benefit. Some of these tech devices can be a shared gift that the siblings get together and do as a family unit if cost is prohibitive.

  • A tablet computer, with which they can do so much. In addition to typical holiday prices, new versions (such as with the iPad) are pushing down prices with older generations of the devices — which will meet the needs of most users.
  • Smartphone (need we say more?)
  • Apps that would benefit them, such as those that mental stimulation, motivate them to become active, or help them organize their lives.
  • Load the tablet or e-reader with some of their favorite book titles or crossword puzzle games.
  • Video camera — if you don’t get them a smartphone or tablet — to record their stories and making a movie of them interacting with the family for everyone to share now and in the future.

Wearable Safety &  Technology

There are more and more wearable technology devices coming to the market that can help keep your seniors’ lives safer and healthier. Here are just a few ideas to get you started.

  • Wearable GPS tracker – there are watches with GPS trackers that are an unobtrusive way to give you both some peace of mind if your senior loved one sometimes forgets the way back home when taking a walk.
  • Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) device, for senior loved ones who are living independently but may need some help in an emergency and not be able to get to their phone.
  • Wearable fitness tracker to provide reminders and motivation to become active each day. It doesn’t take being a runner or fitness enthusiast to benefit from one of these devices, just a desire to improve one’s health.

This is an area that is continuing to develop, with new devices going on the market frequently. It may be tempting to wait for the market to mature, so the device you give as a gift is the latest and best for a while, but the relative low prices on many of the current devices should provide comfort about getting a needed PERS or other wearable now.

Audio & Visual Memories

What a better gift than putting family memories, stories, and mementos together for all to enjoy. There are a variety of different ways we can bring photos, videos and treasures together.

  • Create playlists for your senior and put it on an MP3 player, smartphone or tablet. Set up a variety of different lists, including soothing time melodies to calm them, favorite melodies, big band sounds, church hymns, sing-along songs, holiday music and nature sounds — all tailored to their taste. These are just some ideas but you can get creative with this. You can make the playlists as long or short as each application needs.
  • Create a photo collage or presentation that can be played on their tablet. You can use it to let them reminisce or provide a distraction from other behaviors. You can add a script in your voice or another familiar voice so that it becomes a movie of their life. You can also use a digital photo frame instead of tablet if that is more appropriate for your senior.
  • Scrapbooking supplies you, younger family members and your seniors can work together to bring the story of their life alive.

Don’t Forget Caregiver Gifts

While planning what to get your senior loved ones, you might also think about getting a gift to let the caregivers in their lives (including you) know their efforts and sacrifices are seen and appreciated.

You can get many of the items above for caregivers as well as senior loved ones. Family caregivers, after all, tend to overlook their own health and other needs. Look around for something they wouldn’t get themselves – or a treat you wouldn’t normally get yourself – to express appreciation.

Sometimes a card, book or small token says a lot when “thank you” is the intended message. Knowing you care enough to take the time to  express those thanks is often most meaningful.

Make the Gift Last Through the Year

Any of these things would be a great idea for your seniors. In some instances you may have to demonstrate to them yours is a gift that will provide them value. You may also have to participate in activities with them and recruit family members to join in the activities too. That may be seen as a gift in itself.

What you are really achieving is a way to spend time with your senior loved one, finding ways to make more memories, and sharing quality time with them. It isn’t the same as getting them a sweatshirt that says “Grandmas Are the Greatest” or ties that will never be worn.

Naturally you can add some practical gifts into the mix, like new pajamas or a new pair of khaki pants if that is essential but getting creative will be enjoyed by everyone.

We hope these ideas help you find success and get your holiday season off to a great start.

We'd love to hear your thoughts!





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